Lightboard illustration of the vCenter Server High Availability options for each deployment type.
Announced today, vSphere 6.7, and several new features and enhancements to further the advancement of storage functionality are included. Centralized, shared storage remains the most common storage architecture used with VMware installations despite the incredible adoption rate of HCI and vSAN. As such, VMware remains committed to the continued development of core storage and Virtual Volumes, and with the release of vSphere 6.7, this truly shows. The 6.7 version marks a major vSphere release, with many new capabilities to enhance the customer experience. From space reclamation to supporting Microsoft WSFC on VVols, this release is definitely feature rich! Below are summaries of what is included in vSphere 6.7, and you can find more detail on each feature on the VMware storage and availability technical document repository: StorageHub.
Configurable Automatic UNMAP
Automatic UNMAP was released with vSphere 6.5 with a selectable priority of none or low. Storage vendors and customers have requested higher, configurable rates rather than a fixed 25MBps. With vSphere 6.7 we’ve added a new method, “fixed” which allows you to configure an automatic UNMAP rate between 100MBps and 2000MBps, configurable both in the UI and CLI.
UNMAP for SESparse
SESparse is a sparse virtual disk format used for snapshots in vSphere as a default for VMFS-6. In this release, we are providing automatic space reclamation for VM’s with SESparse snapshots on VMFS-6. This only works when the VM is powered on and only affect the top-most snapshot.
Support for 4K native HDD
Customers may now deploy ESXi on servers with 4Kn HDDs used for local storage (SSD and NVMe drives are currently not supported). We are providing a software read-modify-write layer within the storage stack allowing the emulation of 512B sector drives. ESXi continues to expose 512B sector VMDKs to the guest OS. Servers having UEFI BIOS can boot from 4Kn drives.
XCOPY is used to offload storage-intensive operations such as copying, cloning, and zeroing to the storage array instead of the ESXi host. With the release of vSphere 6.7, XCOPY will now work with specific vendor VAAI primitives and any vendor supporting the SCSI T10 standard. Additionally, XCOPY segments and transfer sizes are now configurable.
As VMware continues the development of Virtual Volumes, in this release we have added support for IPv6 and SCSI-3 persistent reservations. With end to end support of IPv6, this enables organizations, including government, to implement VVols using IPv6. With SCSI-3 reservations, this substantial feature allows shared disks/volumes between virtual machines across nodes/hosts. Often used for Microsoft WSFC clusters, with this new enhancement it allows for the removal of RDMs!
Increased maximum number of LUNs/Paths (1K/4K LUN/Path)
The maximum number of LUNs per host is now 1024 instead of 512 and the maximum number of paths per host is 4096 instead of 2048. Customers may now deploy virtual machines with up to 256 disks using PVSCSI adapters. Each PVSCSI adapter can support up to 64 devices. Devices can be virtual disks or RDMs. A major change in 6.7 is the increased number of LUNs supported for Microsoft WSFC clusters. The number increased from 15 disks to 64 disks per adapter, PVSCSI only. This changes the number of LUNs available for a VM running MICROSOFT WSFC from 45 to 192 LUNs.
Starting with vSphere 6.7, VMFS-3 will no longer be supported. Any volume/datastore still using VMFS-3 will automatically be upgraded to VMFS-5 during the installation or upgrade to vSphere 6.7. Any new volume/datastore created going forward will use VMFS-6 as the default.
Support for PMEM /NVDIMMs
Persistent Memory or PMem is a type of non-volatile DRAM (NVDIMM) that has the speed of DRAM but retains contents through power cycles. It’s a new layer that sits between NAND flash and DRAM providing faster performance and it’s non-volatile unlink DRAM.
Intel VMD (Volume Management Device)
With vSphere 6.7, there is now native support for Intel VMD technology to enable the management of NMVe drives. This technology was introduced as an installable option in vSphere 6.5. Intel VMD currently enables hot-swap management, as well as NVMe drive, LED control allowing similar control used for SAS and SATA drives.
RDMA (Remote Direct Memory Access) over Converged Ethernet (RoCE)
This release introduces RDMA using RoCE v2 support for ESXi hosts. RDMA provides low latency, and higher-throughput interconnects with CPU offloads between the end-points. If a host has RoCE capable network adaptor(s), this feature is automatically enabled.
Para-virtualized RDMA (PV-RDMA)
In this release, ESXi introduces the PV-RDMA for Linux guest OS with RoCE v2 support. PV-RDMA enables customers to run RDMA capable applications in the virtualized environments. PV-RDMA enabled VMs can also be live migrated.
iSER (iSCSI Extension for RDMA)
Customers may now deploy ESXi with external storage systems supporting iSER targets. iSER takes advantage of faster interconnects and CPU offload using RDMA over Converged Ethernet (RoCE). We are providing iSER initiator function, which allows ESXi storage stack to connect with iSER capable target storage systems.
SW-FCoE (Software Fiber Channel over Ethernet)
In this release, ESXi introduces software-based FCoE (SW-FCoE) initiator than can create FCoE connection over Ethernet controllers. The VMware FCoE initiator works on lossless Ethernet fabric using Priority-based Flow Control (PFC). It can work in Fabric and VN2VN modes. Please check VMware Compatibility Guide (VCG) for supported NICs.
It is plain to see why vSphere 6.7 is such a major release with so many new storage-related improvements and features. These are just highlights, more detail may be found by heading over to StorageHub and review the vSphere 6.7 Core Storage section.
Download vSphere 6.7 Core Storage.
About the Author
Jason is the Core Storage Technical Marketing Architect for the Storage and Availability Business Unit at VMware. Before joining VMware, he came from one of the largest flash and memory manufactures in the world. There he architected and lead global teams in virtualization strategies for IT. Also working with the storage business unit, he helped test and validate SSDs for VMware and vSAN. Now his primary focus is core storage for vSphere and vSAN.
We are excited to share that today VMware is announcing vSphere 6.7, the latest release of the industry-leading virtualization and cloud platform. vSphere 6.7 is the efficient and secure platform for hybrid clouds, fueling digital transformation by delivering simple and efficient management at scale, comprehensive built-in security, a universal application platform, and seamless hybrid cloud experience.
vSphere 6.7 delivers key capabilities to enable IT organizations address the following notable trends that are putting new demands on their IT infrastructure:
Explosive growth in quantity and variety of applications, from business critical apps to new intelligent workloads.
- Rapid growth of hybrid cloud environments and use cases.
- On-premises data centers growing and expanding globally, including at the Edge.
- Security of infrastructure and applications attaining paramount importance.
Let’s take a look at some of the key capabilities in vSphere 6.7:
Simple and Efficient Management, at Scale
vSphere 6.7 builds on the technological innovation delivered by vSphere 6.5, and elevates the customer experience to an entirely new level. It provides exceptional management simplicity, operational efficiency, and faster time to market, all at scale.
vSphere 6.7 delivers an exceptional experience for the user with an enhanced vCenter Server Appliance (vCSA). It introduces several new APIs that improve the efficiency and experience to deploy vCenter, to deploy multiple vCenters based on a template, to make management of vCenter Server Appliance significantly easier, as well as for backup and restore. It also significantly simplifies the vCenter Server topology through vCenter with embedded platform services controller in enhanced linked mode, enabling customers to link multiple vCenters and have seamless visibility across the environment without the need for an external platform services controller or load balancers.
Moreover, with vSphere 6.7 vCSA delivers phenomenal performance improvements (all metrics compared at cluster scale limits, versus vSphere 6.5):
- 2X faster performance in vCenter operations per second
- 3X reduction in memory usage
- 3X faster DRS-related operations (e.g. power-on virtual machine)
These performance improvements ensure a blazing fast experience for vSphere users, and deliver significant value, as well as time and cost savings in a variety of use cases, such as VDI, Scale-out apps, Big Data, HPC, DevOps, distributed cloud native apps, etc.
vSphere 6.7 improves efficiency at scale when updating ESXi hosts, significantly reducing maintenance time by eliminating one of two reboots normally required for major version upgrades (Single Reboot). In addition to that, vSphere Quick Boot is a new innovation that restarts the ESXi hypervisor without rebooting the physical host, skipping time-consuming hardware initialization.
Another key component that allows vSphere 6.7 to deliver a simplified and efficient experience is the graphical user interface itself. The HTML5-based vSphere Client provides a modern user interface experience that is both responsive and easy to use. With vSphere 6.7, it includes added functionality to support not only the typical workflows customers need but also other key functionality like managing NSX, vSAN, VUM as well as third-party components.
Comprehensive Built-In Security
vSphere 6.7 builds on the security capabilities in vSphere 6.5 and leverages its unique position as the hypervisor to offer comprehensive security that starts at the core, via an operationally simple policy-driven model.
vSphere 6.7 adds support for Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0 hardware devices and also introduces Virtual TPM 2.0, significantly enhancing protection and assuring integrity for both the hypervisor and the guest operating system. This capability helps prevent VMs and hosts from being tampered with, prevents the loading of unauthorized components and enables guest operating system security features security teams are asking for.
Data encryption was introduced with vSphere 6.5 and very well received. With vSphere 6.7, VM Encryption is further enhanced and more operationally simple to manage. vSphere 6.7 simplifies workflows for VM Encryption, designed to protect data at rest and in motion, making it as easy as a right-click while also increasing the security posture of encrypting the VM and giving the user a greater degree of control to protect against unauthorized data access.
vSphere 6.7 also enhances protection for data in motion by enabling encrypted vMotion across different vCenter instances as well as versions, making it easy to securely conduct data center migrations, move data across a hybrid cloud environment (between on-premises and public cloud), or across geographically distributed data centers.
vSphere 6.7 introduces support for the entire range of Microsoft’s Virtualization Based Security technologies. This is a result of close collaboration between VMware and Microsoft to ensure Windows VMs on vSphere support in-guest security features while continuing to run performant and secure on the vSphere platform.
vSphere 6.7 delivers comprehensive built-in security and is the heart of a secure SDDC. It has deep integration and works seamlessly with other VMware products such as vSAN, NSX and vRealize Suite to provide a complete security model for the data center.
Universal Application Platform
vSphere 6.7 is a universal application platform that supports new workloads (including 3D Graphics, Big Data, HPC, Machine Learning, In-Memory, and Cloud-Native) as well as existing mission critical applications. It also supports and leverages some of the latest hardware innovations in the industry, delivering exceptional performance for a variety of workloads.
vSphere 6.7 further enhances the support and capabilities introduced for GPUs through VMware’s collaboration with Nvidia, by virtualizing Nvidia GPUs even for non-VDI and non-general-purpose-computing use cases such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data and more. With enhancements to Nvidia GRID™ vGPU technology in vSphere 6.7, instead of having to power off workloads running on GPUs, customers can simply suspend and resume those VMs, allowing for better lifecycle management of the underlying host and significantly reducing disruption for end-users. VMware continues to invest in this area, with the goal of bringing the full vSphere experience to GPUs in future releases.
vSphere 6.7 continues to showcase VMware’s technological leadership and fruitful collaboration with our key partners by adding support for a key industry innovation poised to have a dramatic impact on the landscape, which is persistent memory. With vSphere Persistent Memory, customers using supported hardware modules, such as those available from Dell-EMC and HPE, can leverage them either as super-fast storage with high IOPS, or expose them to the guest operating system as non-volatile memory. This will significantly enhance performance of the OS as well as applications across a variety of use cases, making existing applications faster and more performant and enabling customers to create new high-performance applications that can leverage vSphere Persistent Memory.
Also check out the VirtualBlocks Core Storage 6.7 blog where you can find more information about new storage and network features such as Native 4Kn disk support, RDMA support, and Intel VMD for NVMe that further enhance Enterprise Applications running on vSphere.
Seamless Hybrid Cloud Experience
With the fast adoption of vSphere-based public clouds through VMware Cloud Provider Program partners, VMware Cloud on AWS, as well as other public cloud providers, VMware is committed to delivering a seamless hybrid cloud experience for customers.
vSphere 6.7 introduces vCenter Server Hybrid Linked Mode, which makes it easy and simple for customers to have unified visibility and manageability across an on-premises vSphere environment running on one version and VMware Cloud on AWS, running on a different version of vSphere. This ensures that the fast pace of innovation and introduction of new capabilities in VMware Cloud on AWS does not force the customer to constantly update and upgrade their on-premises vSphere environment.
vSphere 6.7 also introduces Cross-Cloud Cold and Hot Migration, further enhancing the ease of management across and enabling a seamless and non-disruptive hybrid cloud experience for customers.
As virtual machines migrate between different data centers or from an on-premises data center to the cloud and back, they likely move across different CPU types. vSphere 6.7 delivers a new capability that is key for the hybrid cloud, called Per-VM EVC. Per-VM EVC enables the EVC (Enhanced vMotion Compatibility) mode to become an attribute of the VM rather than the specific processor generation it happens to be booted on in the cluster. This allows for seamless migration across different CPUs by persisting the EVC mode per-VM during migrations across clusters and during power cycles.
Previously, vSphere 6.0 introduced provisioning between vCenter instances. This is often called “cross-vCenter provisioning.” The use of two vCenter instances introduces the possibility that the instances are on different release versions. vSphere 6.7 enables customers to use different vCenter versions while allowing cross-vCenter, mixed-version provisioning operations (vMotion, Full Clone and cold migrate) to continue seamlessly. This is especially useful for customers leveraging VMware Cloud on AWS as part of their hybrid cloud.
As the ideal, efficient, secure universal platform for hybrid cloud, supporting new and existing applications, serving the needs of IT and the business, vSphere 6.7 reinforces your investment in VMware. vSphere 6.7 is one of the core components of VMware’s SDDC and a fundamental building block of your cloud strategy. With vSphere 6.7, you can now run, manage, connect, and secure your applications in a common operating environment, across your hybrid cloud.
This article only touched upon the key highlights of this release, but there are many more new features. To learn more about vSphere 6.7, please see the following resources.
As part of any new vSphere release, VMware expects to make compatible versions of dependent products available within one quarter of general availability in most cases. At vSphere 6.7 general availability, compatible versions of VMware NSX, VMware Integrated OpenStack and VMware vSphere Integrated Containers will not be available. Moreover, VMware Horizon 7.4 is not compatible with the Instant Clone API used in vSphere 6.7. Instant Clone support for vSphere 6.7 will be available in an upcoming Horizon release. Existing NSX, VIC and VIO customers are advised not to upgrade to vSphere 6.7 until compatible versions become available. For additional information on NSX, VIC and VIO compatibility, please contact your VMware account team or reseller partner.
About the Author
Himanshu Singh is Group Manager of Product Marketing for VMware’s Cloud Platform business, and runs the core product marketing team for the vSphere product line. His extensive past experience in the technology industry includes driving cloud management solutions at VMware, growing the Azure public cloud business at Microsoft, as well as delivering and managing private clouds for large enterprise customers at IBM. Himanshu has been a frequent speaker at VMworld, Dell Technologies World, vForum, VMUG, Microsoft TechEd, and other industry conferences. He holds a B.Eng. (Hons.) degree from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and an MBA from Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. Follow him on twitter as @himanshuks.